“Well, we noticed, so it’s time you get to talking. What fool idea would make you want to come and try to take a legendary metal from people who worship it so?”
“Fine, I’ll tell you. Far to the northeast, across hills and plains and mountains, my aerie is threatened by a giant. Made of frost and ice and cobalt, the beast incites a horde of naga to do its bidding. In years past, the slitherfolk have all but ignored us. But when the giant appeared, they began attacking hunting parties, laying traps, and shooting us from the sky.
“We attempted to fell the giant ourselves,” Keota continued. “We came down upon the naga as one flock when he thundered across the valley. Our greatest warriors broke from battle with the slitherfolk and focused instead on the giant. Spears and halberds and swords were brought to bear against the huge beast, but his ice is impenetrable. He waved off our attacks like we were flies, and he… he killed one of our greatest warriors. Taleo, son of Maku, was to become legend among our people. His flame burned out too young.
“Our people fled to the aerie, the one place we would be safe, where we could mourn our losses. Some of our brave managed to collect Taleo’s body from the battlefield, and we held a funeral for him. It seemed that our time had come to an end.
“That night, though, a whisper came on the wind. It was a call for mythril, the only thing that could pierce through the giant’s icy armor, and shatter its heart. That was weeks ago, and I’ve been searching for it ever since. There’s no telling what’s happened to my people while I’ve been gone. If you’re saying that there is no mythril here, my quest has already failed.”
Mumbles and whispers rose up in the crowd as Keota finished his tale. Like a buzzing hornet’s nest, the clan spoke of the fate that had befallen his people. Words like giant, naga and harpy were uttered from every pair of lips in that crowd.
Dorn looked to the birdman then, and tapped him on his wing. “You can’t stay here. All that talk about plucking your feathers? That wasn’t an exaggeration. They think just by you being here that we’ve made an enemy of the giant that’s come after you and your people.”
Keota swallowed away his tension, the downy prominence in his throat lowering as he did. “I never meant to cause any trouble. I’ll leave straight away.”
As he spread his wings to take flight, he felt Dorn’s hand on his waist. “Not that way,” the dwarf said. “Come on lad,” he grabbed his son. Together, the pair hopped from the pedestal, landing just far enough away from the mob to avoid being pulled into the ruckus. Keota fluttered down beside them, falling into step with the dwarf and his human son as they crossed the rope bridge.
With the buzzing dwarves behind them, the short trek to the cottage grew quiet. “Giants were a mere fairytale to these folk before you arrived,” Dorn said. “We told stories about them to keep our children from wandering too far from home, or disobeying their elders too boisterously. But now you’ve taken those quiet little tales and made them real. And with the naga…” He sighed, composing himself as he reached the cottage. “We already have too great an enemy in the harpies. One day, they will come back, and when they do, we mustn’t be weakened by the—what did you call your people again?”
Keota warbled something indiscernible in reply. Met by curious glances and arched eyebrows, he shook his head. “Anytime we met with the human traders, they addressed us as avarians.”
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